Ainhoa Travel Guide, French Basque Country


Ainhoa Tourism Guide – France

Ainhoa is a fairly typical village in the French Basque Country, however, it is also one of the most beautiful. It’s small – only one street to be exact. But the houses are a perfect example of the local architecture, each with exposed stones in their corners and bright red and green shutters. Ainhoa is also a stopover for the Way of St. James and a great staging point for many hikes in the area.

The quaint little village of Ainhoa has just 650 inhabitants and is located in the interior of the French Basque province of Labourd, less than 3 km away from the Spanish border. It was built during the 13th century for use by the nearby Urdazubi-Urdax Monastery and over the centuries has served as a place of shelter for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The village is formed by a main street full of incredibly beautiful Basque style houses. However, most of the original houses were destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War and the ones that we see today were rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The very center of the town is just next to this main street and is formed by three of the most traditional elements of any Basque village: a church surrounded by the graveyard and the fronton on the side.


Ainhoa's Top Things to Do & See

Ainhoa's Things to Do & See
Ainhoa Tourism
Herriko etchea - Town Hall of Ainhoa

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (“Église Notre Dame de l’Assomption” in French) was built in the 13th century. It was built not only as a church but also with the idea that it could be used as a place of refuge for the locals in times of war.

The interior of the church has the characteristics of most traditional churches in the French Basque province of Labourd. It is formed by a single nave and has wooden galleries stretching along the side and back walls of the building. These galleries were originally used by men attending mass, while women sat on the benches of the ground floor.

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The church is surrounded by a cemetery which is a beautiful example of Basque funerary art, full of traditional gravestones from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Right behind the church and the cemetery, in a privileged location in the very heart of the village, is the fronton of Ainhoa. It was built in 1849 and is where the most popular sports in the region, such as cesta punta and pelota mano are played. The space is also multifunctional since it is used for celebrations, events and other activities in the village.

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Ainhoa Tourism
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption
Things to Do in Ainhoa
Interior of the church

At the end of the main street, in the direction of the Spanish border, there is a place called “Lavoir Alaxurruta.” This is a communal area where the women of the village would go to wash clothes. Fresh spring water from the surrounding mountains flows into a giant trough-like construction that is covered by a roof. The Lavoir Alaxurruta’s claim to fame is that it was visited by Napoleon III and his wife Eugenia de Montijo during a tour of the area in 1858.

The surroundings of Ainhoa are very picturesque. In addition to the green pastures, there is also the so called forest of Ainhoa which comprises more than 430 hectares. Although some parts are used by shepherds, it is mainly a mountainous area rich in fauna (dears, wild pigs, goats, etc.) and vegetation (oak trees). And since there are several paths in the area, the village serves as a good starting point for hiking.

There are short hikes (between 2 and 5 hours) known as “Petites Randonnées” as well as longer ones such as the GR10 (“Grande Randonnée 10”) which goes from Hendaye to Arrens (260 km, 17 days). Another famous hike that crosses Ainhoa is the “smuggler’s hike” (“Le Sentier des Contrebandiers” in French).

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Surroundings of Ainhoa - France
Surroundings of Ainhoa

Hotels in Ainhoa

Hotels in Ainhoa

Get In & Around

Get In & Around

Once you are in Ainhoa, all places are reachable by foot.

Arriving to Ainhoa

PLANE – The closest airport is the one of Biarritz, 30 km away from Ainhoa (aprox. 40 min). The airport of San Sebastian/Hondarribia is 40 km away (aprox. 50 min).

CAR – Ainhoa is located on the road D-20, 20 km away from Bayonne (aprox. 30 min by car) and less than 3 km away from the Spanish border. Espelette is located only 5 minutes away.

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BUS – There aren’t buses stopping in Ainhoa.

TRAIN – There isn't a train station in Ainhoa. The closest train stations are located in Cambo-les-Bains (12 km away) and Saint-Jean-de-Luz (23 km away).

Other Places of Interest in the Surroundings

In the Surroundings

Map – Things to Do in Ainhoa

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